Perhaps aptly for a former striker, Michael Owen isn’t backward in coming forward with his views when we meet for our exclusive chat.

The England hero turned football pundit, who’s been married to his childhood sweetheart for 18 years, is refreshingly unfiltered about everything from his wife Louise’s apathy about his achievements on the pitch – “she’s never put me on a pedestal,” he says – to his daughter Gemma’s Love Island appearance.

Born when her dad was playing for Real Madrid, Gemma has been surrounded by autograph hunters and selfie seekers her entire life, so it was little surprise the dressage rider chose to enter the villa last summer.

“I wasn’t that keen,” admits Michael, who recently made his own reality TV debut as an oversized foam doughnut on The Masked Singer. “But I knew as soon as she said, ‘You know what, I’m probably favouring doing it,’ that she wouldn’t bring shame to me or the family, or anything like that, as she’s bombproof.

“She was the youngest on there, but I thought she was the most mature out of all of them. She was always there to talk to other people, and I think she did really well. It’s not the easiest thing to go away from your family for such a long time and behave like she did.”

Michael says he’s a confidante for his daughter, who is big sister to Jessica, 13, Emily, 16, and 17-year-old James.

“The day-to-day chit chat, she’ll do with her mum, whereas I’ll just get asked my opinion once every blue moon, but when she does ask, we’ll have an in-depth conversation about it.”

But one topic Gemma has no interest in discussing with her famous dad is fashion. “I’ve got a range with Peacocks and fashion is really important for Gemma, but we absolutely never compare notes.

"I’d love to say I give Gemma loads of fashion advice and I’d love you to print that, then I’d show her the article and say, ‘You see, I know what I’m talking about,’ but absolutely no.

“She would not want any advice from her 43-year-old father and she would never, ever ask for my opinion on anything she’s wearing, ever. I try to have my two pennies worth and say, ‘Oh, you look lovely,’ but advice on what she wears is just not my gig.”

Compared to his daughter, who founded OG Beachwear, is the face of Holland Cooper Equestrian and has a jewellery collection for Abbott Lyon, Michael’s the first to admit he’s no David Beckham when it comes to fashion.

He says, “All my children – and my wife – are into fashion, so if I pull something dodgy out of the wardrobe, I’ll get pulled up on it straight away. But if I’m not working, I’m quite happy to wander down to my local Tesco in a pair of shorts, a suit jacket and some flip flops.

“And as for doing fashion shoots, I’ve been in front of the camera for more than 25 years so I’m quite comfortable with it, but I wouldn’t say I get into a studio and suddenly turn into Naomi Campbell.”

And when it comes to any sartorial rivalry with his former England teammate David Beckham, Michael says they’re in different stratospheres.

“He always enjoyed being a fashion icon and I was always on his coat tails. David was the one getting the multimillion pound deals, and I was getting maybe 10% of the value of those deals,” he laughs. “In my Liverpool days, I didn’t have a fashion sense and just used to wear trackies all the time.”

Fashion was clearly the last thing on Michael’s mind during a glittering football career that saw him collect the coveted Ballon d’Or trophy in 2001. But he reveals his triumphs were met with apathy in the Owen household.

“I do sometimes think, ‘It would be nice to come home to hear your wife and kids say, ‘You were brilliant today. That was amazing,’” he says. “I do yearn for their glowing references, but there’s none of that. It’s a brutal house where I live,” he says, only half-jokingly.

The problem, he explains, is that the only thing his family have ever known is success. “Louise and I were born two months apart, went to the same nursery and primary school and lived 10 doors apart and were boyfriend and girlfriend from infants and juniors.

“We’ve known each other for more than 40 years, and once I got back from the FA’s Centre of Excellence in Lilleshall aged 17 and we got together properly, this is the only life we’ve ever known, so she’s never put me on a pedestal.

“When I scored a hat trick in a final or won the Ballon D’or, she didn’t pat me on the back or say, ‘Well done, Michael.’ It wasn’t like, ‘The whole stadium was singing your name out there today. How incredible.’ None of that was a surprise.

!It’s just normal for us. It’s not like I ever came in and she’d be singing, ‘There’s only one Michael Owen!’ Can you imagine? The truth is she doesn’t really give a monkey’s about football and she’s never really understood it all.

“Me and Louise, we’ve just always been mates – well, obviously more than mates, we’re husband and wife, and we've always had a good relationship and it’s just strengthened over time.”

Away from family life, Michael’s time since he retired from the game 10 years ago is split between broadcasting for TNT Sport and employing people to run Manor House Horse Racing Stables close to his Cheshire home. And he admits he goes stir crazy if he’s not permanently busy.

“Even if I’ve not been home for a month and I get home at 6pm, within an hour I’m bored. I can’t just sit on the couch. I’ll have to either go down to the pub for a drink with my dad – or with Louise. I can’t just spend time staring at a screen.”

And there’s clearly no chance of Michael, who once admitted he’d only ever watched three films in his life, kicking back with a good thriller at the end of a long day.

“Films are just boring. They’re made up. They’re not even real life. I hate them, they’re horrible. It makes me cross just talking about them. You put something like James Bond on, and he does 10 cartwheels and 20 backflips and ducks down on the top of a train before a bridge hits him and then shoots someone and he dies. And it’s like, ‘Oh my God, come on. I was watching programmes like that when I was three.’”

Perhaps the root of Michael’s restlessness is the impossibility of recreating the adrenaline high that fuelled him during his playing career.

He explains, “That’s why a lot of footballers struggle when they retire. Trying to find something that gives you that buzz is impossible. Forget scoring a goal in the World Cup against Argentina, just scoring a goal is the biggest high and to not have that is hard.

“I’ve tried everything in life. Well, not drugs, so I don’t know what that high is like, but everything else I’ve tried doesn’t come close to scoring a goal. So you’ve just got to accept it and hope it doesn’t eat you up. I keep myself busy with my work and the stables and my family, and I make sure I don’t give myself too much time to think.”

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